Got flakes or an itchy, irritated scalp? These are typical signs of dandruff, a chronic skin condition that affects more than 50 percent of us. No need to suffer: We asked Ilyse Lefkowicz, MD, Head & Shoulders global dermatologist who specializes in scalp health, to dispel some myths about this common and totally treatable problem.
MYTH Dandruff is caused by poor hygiene.
The condition can develop on even the cleanest scalp. A fungus called Malassezia lives on the skin and scalp of all adults—for some, though, the fungus causes irritation. (Experts don’t know why.) The result: Skin cells shed at a rate that’s much faster than normal, leading to flakiness.
TRUTH There is no cure for dandruff.
But you don’t have to live with flakes. Antidandruff shampoos with zinc, like Head & Shoulders Instant Relief Shampoo ($4; Walmart.com) and Malin + Goetz Dandruff Shampoo ($26; Bloomingdales.com), temporarily slow the production of skin cells.
MYTH Dandruff gets worse in the winter.
The Malassezia bug actually thrives in hot, moist environments, so the irritation can peak in warmer months—or after an intense workout. Hit the showers after you sweat, and wash your hair at least every three days to rinse away dead skin and dial down on excess oil.